ABC Blog: Is Obama Using Sexist Language?

By Big Tent Democrat

Even the Media gets that there is a problem here:

Earlier this month, speaking at Tulane University, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, said this about the attacks coming his way from Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-NY:

"You challenge the status quo and suddenly the claws come out," Obama said.

The CLAWS come out? Really?

Then yesterday Obama told reporters who had asked about Clinton's latest attack ad, "I understand that Senator Clinton, periodically when she's feeling down, launches attacks as a way of trying to boost her appeal." . . .

Jake Tapper of ABC notes that even NBC reporters noticed the problem:

According to this unofficial transcript, over at MSNBC, Andrea Mitchell and Norah O'Donnell seemed to suggest Obama may have been -- if not playing the gender card, then using language women voters might find offensive.

. . . Nora O'Donnell: "He said, 'I understand when she's down, that she makes these kinds of attacks.' It's getting a little personal."

Andrea Mitchell: "It's getting a little personal and, very frankly, you know how deeply we interpreted every comment to look for some sort of racial motivation before South Carolina. A lot of people said it was there. But, you know, when you start describing a female candidate as being 'down' and 'striking back,' I don't know, that's a little edgy, don't you think?"

A lot of sexist is what I think. Still a non-story for A-list male bloggers though.

NOTE - Comments are now closed.

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  • One (5.00 / 2) (#1)
    by Stellaaa on Sat Feb 16, 2008 at 01:38:35 PM EST
    Still looking for someone else.....


    It must have been a subconscious thing (5.00 / 3) (#5)
    by felizarte on Sat Feb 16, 2008 at 01:46:35 PM EST
    because if he was conscious of making a sexist statement, it leads one to wonder why he would deliberately say something to alienate the women voters, a group whose support he is trying to hard to divid.

    But a subconscious thing bubbling up to the surface is worse, because it means that sexism is inherent or at the very least, internalized which would make him a rank hypocrite.

    I hope that women all over will him unmasked, bared, etc. which his rhetoric has managed to conceal so far.


    She forgot "periodically," (none / 0) (#3)
    by oculus on Sat Feb 16, 2008 at 01:43:54 PM EST
    O'Donnell, that is, and she found Obama's comment out of line.  

    Rock On! (5.00 / 7) (#8)
    by Militarytracy on Sat Feb 16, 2008 at 01:50:09 PM EST
    Thank goodness, ignoring this is as bad as when the undertones of racism get ignored or trivialized.  I'm so glad that someone out there is finally saying to themselves "Well Duh, this isn't healthy!"

    You're a girl! (5.00 / 4) (#18)
    by Plutonium Page on Sat Feb 16, 2008 at 01:54:16 PM EST
    You're totally reading something into it, Miss Girl.



    Hm (5.00 / 3) (#30)
    by chrisvee on Sat Feb 16, 2008 at 02:01:10 PM EST
    Still a non-story for A-list male bloggers though.

    This may be what incenses me the most.  Bloggers who were all over the story of the alleged race-baiting incidents are suddenly silent.  I'll try to be charitable and attribute it to the fact that it's Saturday.

    The Schuster story (5.00 / 3) (#69)
    by TeresaInSnow2 on Sat Feb 16, 2008 at 02:29:34 PM EST
    was also ignored.  It's very Faux-Newsish, isn't it?

    Alien Abudctee (5.00 / 2) (#32)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sat Feb 16, 2008 at 02:03:32 PM EST
    I am not surprised that you are tut tuting me. you do not care about this issue.

    I do. And I have for a long time. No doubt you were tut tutting me for criticizing Lawrence Summers. I believe sexism and misogyny are big issues in the coverage of this campaign.

    I believe Obama used sexist language (I did NOT say he was a sexist) on both of those occasions.

    Frankly I think is is downright IDIOTIC of you to deny it.

    It is beyond despicable of you to accuse me of pushing this for candidate based reasons.

    you have chsoen to insult me and as a result you are suspended from this blog for the rest of topday.

    Your comment will be deleted immediately.

    "Inkblot" statements (5.00 / 1) (#36)
    by TeresaInSnow2 on Sat Feb 16, 2008 at 02:05:29 PM EST
    Obama has a "tendency" toward "inkblot" statements -- resulting in a tide of W.O.R.M.s.

    He knows he does it, he apparently likes doing it, he thinks it's a great campaign strategy, apparently.  However, I very much hope this one backfires in his face.

    And again, it's not about W.O.R.M., it's about the fact that this particular W.O.R.M. perfectly aligns with a very common male tendency to say "don't mind her, she's just on the r??".

    So....Offend women with this?  Offend the "teargas generation" with talk about Reagan and the "excesses of the 60's"?  Result: The base stays home.

    And you think this guy is more "electable"?

    I missed the inkblot (none / 0) (#41)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sat Feb 16, 2008 at 02:08:42 PM EST
    in either of these statements.

    They seem quite plainly sexist to me.


    To me, it's also not. (5.00 / 1) (#59)
    by TeresaInSnow2 on Sat Feb 16, 2008 at 02:22:02 PM EST
    To many women, it's not.  But apparently, to others, it's an inkblot.

    Like I've said elsewhere, I only hope the women at Saturday Night Live run with this.  Use his comments as narrative for a Midol or tampon commercial where they'd fit perfectly...then it will feel a little less "inkblotty".


    I joke... (5.00 / 1) (#49)
    by SandyK on Sat Feb 16, 2008 at 02:13:14 PM EST
    especially among gamers, that I was a member of the CLAW clan. I love to use the worst terms and throw them back at the Neandertals. R-e-a-l-l-y gets them fired up. Then when I come back from a game with pics of their privates nailed-to-the-wall, they literally go NUTS to compensate!!

    What was that about "girlz" being weak and poor shooters again, kiddos????

    Sometimes when faced with the most sexist group on Earth -- I believe them to be male FPS gamers -- you have to speak the very language they hate, and turn it to your advantage.

    Yes, I'm very proud to be a capital B when needed. Protecting sisterhood is a full time job!

    New Rule (5.00 / 1) (#55)
    by NJDem on Sat Feb 16, 2008 at 02:20:18 PM EST
    When things get too heated around here, someone must cut the tension with a line from Airplane, Naked Gun, etc. :)

    So (5.00 / 1) (#65)
    by rebecca on Sat Feb 16, 2008 at 02:26:20 PM EST
    because there are horrors going on in the world around us we should ignore sexist comments because they don't reach the same level of offense as torture or genocide.  Nice to know that in order to discuss sexism we have to wait for the world to reach a level of peace we've never seen in our entire recorded history.  Who knows maybe we'll be able to discuss sexism sometime a few thousand years  from now.  

    To wuote Digby (5.00 / 3) (#70)
    by oldpro on Sat Feb 16, 2008 at 02:31:32 PM EST
    "This election is worse than being stuck in seventh grade for the rest of your life. Jesus H Christ."

    Another woman, another take... (5.00 / 5) (#75)
    by kenoshaMarge on Sat Feb 16, 2008 at 02:42:25 PM EST
    As a woman who is sensitive to misogynist remarks I have been offended several times by Senator Obama's remarks. "tea remark/claws remark/feeling down periodically remark. He is touted as extremely intelligent and a remarkable public speaker. If so then he is too smart and too good a speaker to be including subtle sexist remarks accidentally.  

    As for the women over at firedoglake, they don't seem to be at all offended by the very age discriminatory post called "Too Old To Cut The Mustard" about Senator John McCain. I don't like his politics and disagree with nearly everything he says every time he opens his mouth. But to use his age against him, and to suggest that he has or will have Alzheimer's disease is reprehensible.

    I find discrimination in all it's ugly manifestations equally repulsive. Maybe cause I get a double whammy being both old and female. One I cannot change and the other could only have been changed by not living long enough to have my wrinkles, grey hair, and various drooping body parts offend. (I could get some implants I suppose but I'll be damned if I want my boobs to live longer than I will. Those boobs would be body parts not various Republican relatives.)

    this just in... (4.33 / 6) (#31)
    by NJDem on Sat Feb 16, 2008 at 02:03:22 PM EST
    women don't care if men don't think what he said was sexist.  We (hope you don't mind that I speak on behalf of all of us, ladies) know what we heard and the vast majority of women will think the same thing.  Period.  I should say, we do care, but unfortunately, we're used to not being heard.  

    Thanks BTD for seeing through this media BS and just telling in like it is.  

    And I'd love to see some proof of men referring to their "claws."  Come on, that's just funny!  

    I've heard men talk about their own "claws (none / 0) (#4)
    by Compound F on Sat Feb 16, 2008 at 01:45:53 PM EST
    coming out," in agonistic situations, and I am positive the statement was not meant to be self-emasculating.  This is a completely ambiguous statement with respect to sex.  It is a mountain from a molehill at best.  And no, this is not an attack on BTD.  I just don't read it the same.

    I've heard of Men (5.00 / 2) (#10)
    by felizarte on Sat Feb 16, 2008 at 01:50:48 PM EST
    concealing their irons fists in  'velvet gloves' but never claws.  I am most curious about a man who would talk about his 'claws.'

    "claws" is sort of shorthand for 'women and cat fights' therefore the use of claws' or cartoonesque witches with long nails.


    I'll be honest (5.00 / 3) (#15)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sat Feb 16, 2008 at 01:52:26 PM EST
    I do not believe it.

    If they could come up with one example they would.

    Every one knows the saying is "the knives come out" not the "claws come out."


    He was just a normal, well educated man, (none / 0) (#34)
    by Compound F on Sat Feb 16, 2008 at 02:04:35 PM EST
    not especially prone to violence or anger, but willing to exercise "resource holding potential" under threat, in this case, an authorship issue.

    So wait (none / 0) (#48)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sat Feb 16, 2008 at 02:12:15 PM EST
    you heard it ONCE? Is that what you are saying?

    I have never heard that EVER (5.00 / 1) (#12)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sat Feb 16, 2008 at 01:51:25 PM EST
    Can I be frank? I do not believe you.

    Agreed (5.00 / 1) (#24)
    by phat on Sat Feb 16, 2008 at 01:56:51 PM EST
    I've never heard that once.

    And if any of the men I know would have said that, I'd bet money they'd "correct" it.



    I've had the (5.00 / 3) (#22)
    by PlayInPeoria on Sat Feb 16, 2008 at 01:56:25 PM EST
    "what I meant" stuff from guys.... Hello.. "it's all in you head, women!" No. I don't buy that one.

    Implying that Hillary Clinton is prone to periodic attacks on him when she is feeling emotional and down on herself is not acceptable.

    Is this how he will refer to a male candidate...I bet not.


    even the media gets (none / 0) (#6)
    by Tano on Sat Feb 16, 2008 at 01:47:12 PM EST
    that there is a story here, not a problem.

    You are making a mockery of the issue of sexism with this nonsense, and a laughing stock out of progressives.

    You are on record that, in your opinion, (5.00 / 2) (#7)
    by oculus on Sat Feb 16, 2008 at 01:49:49 PM EST
    Obama's comment was not sexist.  

    `You (5.00 / 5) (#9)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sat Feb 16, 2008 at 01:50:26 PM EST
    need to be careful. Even though today is another day, malign acceptance and encouragement of sexism by the likes of you is likely to get my dander up and I may tell you what I really think of you.

    i do not accept sexism, nor encourage it (none / 0) (#58)
    by Tano on Sat Feb 16, 2008 at 02:22:02 PM EST
    Perhaps you could accept, BTD, that your opinion on this matter is not some objective truth.

    You are, quite obviously, interpreting another person's comments in a certain manner, a highly insulting manner. What gives you the confidence that you are doing so fairly? Accurately?

    Your attitude is that anyone who disagrees with you is a sexist. Can you not imagine the possiblity that you are, in fact, maybe reading into this something that is not there?

    As you know, everyone is hyper-sensitive to the racial and sexual overtones that these two candidacies present. In days and weeks past, I seem to recall you bristling angry at the charges of racism leveled at the Clintons. And, for the record, I defended them on this.

    But your attitude now, if transferred back to then, would have been that anyone who denied the Clintons racism, anyone who understood their language in a more benign manner, was themselves a racist. No question about it. Its obvious.

    The effect of what you are doing (and I dont say the intent) is to assert, and persuade people that they should feel victimized by these remarks.
    The effect, not the intention I am sure, is to get people angry with eachother - to start a fight in which anyone who doesnt see sexism in these particular remarks can be put into the box that bears all the weight of the sexism in our society, and the other side can vent the frustrations of millenia.

    You wisely resist all attempts to do this on racial issues, and even banned people who seemed to want to provoke such a fight. But now you start one yourself. And we all know there are Obama-haters on this site who are just dying to have an issue like this.


    Excuse me (5.00 / 1) (#61)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sat Feb 16, 2008 at 02:24:16 PM EST
    Did you FORGET what you wrote in your first comment?

    Surely you are not NOW complaining about the TONE of MY comment after what you wrote?

    The hypocrisy is incredible.


    "a laughing stock out of progressives" (5.00 / 5) (#14)
    by Plutonium Page on Sat Feb 16, 2008 at 01:52:02 PM EST
    How does one blogger do that for an entire group of people - millions, in fact?

    Rather ridiculous thing to say, really.

    And it's fascinating that there are people who don't even feel a teeny, tiny bit uncomfortable with what Obama said.  At the very least, it's rather condescending.


    I hope I do credit to some bloggers (5.00 / 4) (#19)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sat Feb 16, 2008 at 01:54:41 PM EST
    on this.

    But as you know, I have never been afraid of the laughter of bigots.



    still not a subject for "A" list male (none / 0) (#11)
    by sancho on Sat Feb 16, 2008 at 01:51:10 PM EST
    bloggers because Obama voices their own thoughts and predjudices. They will, I suspect, be happy to minimize Obama's obvious and increasingly blatant sexism b/c it mirrors their own. By contrast, in a GE, McCain will appear courtly (knightly) and will not have the baggage of ever pretending to be for gender equality. We may see the irony of some women voting for the old-fashioned sexist (McCain) b/c he does not seem to be the hypocrite that the new-fashioned sexist (Obama) is.

    In what comments (none / 0) (#40)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sat Feb 16, 2008 at 02:07:52 PM EST
    Obama as a misogynist is way over the top.

    I have not sen such portrayals and will delete any such comments.

    Other than that, your comment seems to make no sense to me. Or rather as an attempted defense of Obama it makes no sense.

    Just one example -

    "I hear women talk about other women's claws coming out all the time--and this comes from liberal, professional, educated women...."

    This seems to underscore the SEXIST nature of Obama's usage. I am not sure what you are trying to say here.

    I think you are reaching... (none / 0) (#42)
    by southerndem on Sat Feb 16, 2008 at 02:08:50 PM EST
    As a woman who is sensitive to this kind of thing, I don't think either comment is sexist.  If you have a cat as I do, the use of phrase, "the claws come out" is a common utterance and analogy.  Clinton has indeed gone into attack mode in Wisconsin with her most recent ad campaign, so I don't find that to be  a sexist reference either.  The internal poll done at the feminist-leaning-blog Firedoglake, which i read regularly, didn't find the "claws" comment to be sexist and this latter comment seems to be a statement that could just as easily be directed at a man.

    Now if you want to talk about the sexism on MSNBC or specifically the sexism of Chris Matthews, that is a whole other story.  

    Our self images often decive (5.00 / 3) (#52)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sat Feb 16, 2008 at 02:17:00 PM EST
    You say about yourself that:

    As a woman who is sensitive to this kind of thing . .

    Based on your reaction, I would say you are insensitive to this type of thing. but that is my view of it. But there is some evidence. you write:

    If you have a cat as I do, the use of phrase, "the claws come out" is a common utterance and analogy.

    And if you are familiar with American vernacular, you also should know that  "a catfight" is a sexist reference to two women having a dispute.

    I think the evidence here is strong that not only are you NOT "sensitive to this type of thing" that in fact you are robustly "insensitive" to it.


    We are in uncharted territory (none / 0) (#62)
    by MKS on Sat Feb 16, 2008 at 02:25:03 PM EST
    We have a very tough woman candidate that Obama wants to criticize.....Ideally, he could do so without any reference to gender at all....

    But it would seem a level of perfection is being demanded here that does not match what happens in everyday workplaces that are fair to women....Any reference that acknowldeges that Hillary is a woman will be turned into a misogynist comment....

    Having one's claws out....I am not so sure that is such a pejorative, especially when a woman wants to be perceived as tough or protective.


    Just because (5.00 / 3) (#66)
    by PlayInPeoria on Sat Feb 16, 2008 at 02:26:48 PM EST
    The internal poll done at the feminist-leaning-blog Firedoglake, which i read regularly, didn't find the "claws" comment to be sexist

    IS NOT scientific proof that the general population does not consider "the claws come out" as sexist.

    Cat fights, claws, feeling and emotions, tea party... have been associated with the feminine population.


    Ask yourself this... (5.00 / 2) (#68)
    by SandyK on Sat Feb 16, 2008 at 02:27:20 PM EST
    Do men call each other by such a pet name?


    They'll use every term that is sexist to portray that they're macho and not "weak", instead.

    Those terms often degrade women. For example, a term these 15 year-old young boys are using in games now, is "rape juice". When they and their peers regard revenge killing another as that, and doing things like "teabagging" as fun, yeah, you REALLY have to educate that these Neandertal ideas have zero place in the modern world -- they're not fun, especially to very impressionable minds, and the next generation of men.

    Same goes with other terms that are designed to degrade women.


    Great Strawman You Have Going There n/t (none / 0) (#67)
    by MO Blue on Sat Feb 16, 2008 at 02:26:48 PM EST

    No more comments (none / 0) (#74)
    by Big Tent Democrat on Sat Feb 16, 2008 at 02:36:04 PM EST
    This thread is closed.

    You don't have to go home but you can't stay in this thread.

    All further comments will be deleted.

    I'm new to this blog and like the overall tone (none / 0) (#76)
    by doyenne49 on Sat Feb 16, 2008 at 02:50:52 PM EST
    But a lot of deleting and suspending seems to take place in the comments. Is that usual? Just curious.

    Yes (none / 0) (#77)
    by Jeralyn on Sat Feb 16, 2008 at 02:57:18 PM EST
    we have a strict comment policy and it's enforced when we see violations by deleting the offending comment. Repeat offenders are suspended and banned.

    This blog will remain civil in tone. All points of view are welcome, but name-calling, personal attacks, profanity, chattering and repetitive shilling for a candidate won't be tolerated. Either will deliberately posting unsourced, false information.

    I've cleaned this thread (none / 0) (#81)
    by Jeralyn on Sat Feb 16, 2008 at 03:11:46 PM EST
    of insults and silliness but Big Tent has closed comments so please, no more.

    I'm tired of being monitor today, I've got things to do and when I come back I want to blog, not play baby-sitter.

    Shorter version: Be civil or comment elsewhere.

    Arg! (none / 0) (#82)
    by LarryInNYC on Sat Feb 16, 2008 at 09:33:10 PM EST
    Comments closed?  I've been waiting for this thread!

    Wait. . . I guess I can post top (none / 0) (#83)
    by LarryInNYC on Sat Feb 16, 2008 at 09:35:12 PM EST
    level comments.

    BTD: In a previous post on this subject I said that I use "claws out" in a gender neutral manner (eg, saying the media has its claws out for Clinton).

    Reflecting later that day I realized that the expression I use is "knives out", not "claws out" -- eg, the media has its knives out for Clinton.

    I wanted to correct in that thread, but comments were closed.

    What's the difference... (none / 0) (#84)
    by smr33 on Sun Feb 17, 2008 at 06:37:44 AM EST
    between "claws" and say, for example, "long knives?"  If Clinton used the phrase "long knives" if she were making a similar comment about Obama would that be sexist?  Would it cause this kind of angst?

    I personally find this kind of tortured debate rather silly.  Words are words, and sometimes they mean a great deal and sometimes a cigar really is just a cigar.  I find it difficult to imagine that Obama is a sexist, and I find it equally difficult to believe that either Bill or Hilary Clinton are racists.  As Democrats, we betray ourselves as being really rather silly when we have these debates over language when we have rather large problems in this country that are far more meaningful to folks.  

    There is another point of view (none / 0) (#85)
    by southerndem on Mon Feb 18, 2008 at 09:03:49 AM EST
    what about this comment from Clinton: "He's running a campaign where he is obviously taking shots at me," Clinton said. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/02/17/ohio-primary-latest-news_n_86925.html

    Is it sexist and racist to refer to a black male using a loaded weapon?  

    C'mon, you all are creating mountains out of molehills.  You are all giving the repubs exactly what they want -- a divided democratic party.